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Canadian Praise For Tony Abbott A Game Changer For Climate Negotiations

Graham Lloyd, The Australian

Canada’s public praise yesterday for Australia’s decision to scrap the carbon tax underscores a dramatic shift that could sweep through international climate negotiations.

The final step for Australia would be to follow developed countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Russia and Japan in walking away from Kyoto 2, the global agreement on reducing carbon emissions.

“Canada applauds the decision by Prime Minister (Tony) Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia’s carbon tax,” Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said in a message of support on behalf of the Conservative Party government. “The Australian Prime Minister’s decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message.”

Australia was one of only a handful of non-EU nations to commit to a second round of Kyoto. It has signed, but not yet ratified the agreement. Part of the previous logic of joining was to underpin Australia’s carbon trading scheme and allow local businesses access to EU carbon permits.

The deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute research group, Erwin Jackson, said further backing away by Australia on climate action would inevitably change the balance within climate change negotiations. This would be particularly so on the “umbrella group” of non-EU developed nations that Australia chairs. Members include Norway, the US, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and Russia.

“Australia has played a more constructive role as a counter-balance to Canada,” Mr Jackson said. “If we don’t have a credible domestic policy and behave more like Canada, we would shift the balance within the umbrella group of non-EU developed nations. The question is are we going to act in good faith and move towards ratification?”

A test will come in April when Australia is expected to outline its latest emissions projections, outline progress towards meeting those targets and what options there are to be more ambitious.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has previously supported Australia’s involvement in Kyoto 2, but a lot has changed. The carbon tax and trading scheme are being scrapped for the Coalition’s direct-action program.

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